For a club with the ambitions of Peterborough United, reaching the 40 match mark should mean that they are looking forward to a late push to secure a play-off place. This current season, as well as the last two, have been riddled with disappointment and embarrassment. The club is in danger of stagnating in League One and with dwindling crowds coupled with poor performances are in danger of a possible further drop down the levels of the Football League and lead to the club being put back into the same position it was when ambitious chairman Darragh MacAnthony took over in 2006.
The years before the MacAnthony takeover were riddled with turmoil on and off the pitch. Fan protests directed to then chairman Barry Fry were rife. The club was in major debt and the playing squad was average at best. The height of all these problems came in the 2005/06 season, the year after The Posh were relegated from League One. Midway through the season, manager Mark Wright was sacked and his assistant Steve Bleasdale was given caretaker charge of the side.
As a part of this, an experiment was undertaken by Ron Atkinson, who came in as a troubleshooter to try and aid Bleasdale as manager, as this was his first job in management. This was broadcast on Sky One in a reality show called Big Ron Manager.
It started off well for both the club and the management team involved, with Atkinson and Bleasdale seeming to get on well with each other during a spell of good results. However things soon turned sour, Bleasdale became unhappy with the involvement of the former Nottingham Forest and Manchester United manager and eventually resigned from his role an hour before kick-off of a match against Macclesfield Town, citing high levels of outside interference, which included Atkinson bringing in a physio and goalkeeping coach, causing divisions in the camp which led to physical altercations between the players and major differences regarding style of play, with the last straw for Bleasdale being Chairman Barry Fry choosing the team for the game with Macclesfield.
With the duo of Fry and Atkinson taking over the reigns after this, The Posh slumped to a 9th place finish, after sacking Wright while they sat in 5th. A series of unimpressive signings, gutless performances and dressing room brawls contributed to this and the club was in need of a new direction.
After viewing the show, MacAnthony, who made his millions in the overseas property business, bought the club in September 2006 and quickly installed his ideals and philosophy into the club. He brought in a young manager in Darren Ferguson and paid out for young lower league players Craig Mackail-Smith, Aaron McLean and George Boyd, regarded by many fans as ‘The Holy Trinity’ as their success as players contributed massively to the back to back promotions to the Championship between 2007 and 2009.
Relegation followed in the 2009/10 season, but the club bounced back in 2010/11 with an emphatic play off winning season, scoring 129 goals in all competitions. A strong season in the Championship in 11/12 where they finished 17th came before relegation heartbreak the following season, coming from a 90th minute winner away at Crystal Palace on the final day of the season with The Posh being relegated with a record number of points (54). A successful season in the Johnstones Paint Trophy was overshadowed by elimination in the play offs in 2013/14, but since then it has been downhill the next two seasons, finishing 9th and 13th respectively.
The signings of these young lower league players is one of the major philosophies that MacAnthony has instilled in the club, with players such as Craig Mackail-Smith, George Boyd, Aaron Mclean, Russell Martin, Ryan Bennett, Paul Coutts, Dwight Gayle, Lee Tomlin, Conor Washington and Jon Taylor all being successful products of this system, with Britt Assobmalonga and Nicky Ajose also being sold on for a profit, albeit coming from higher level clubs.
However, since the sale of Assombalonga, there has been a major dip in the quality of players coming through this system. Players have been bought but have looked unimpressive, such as Luke James, Kyle Vassell, Shaq Coulthirst, Aaron Williams and Tom Nichols. All of these strikers have scored goals for the club, but have been subject to heavy criticism for poor performances. This season has seen probably more disappointment and unrest than some of the others, with the fans being actively displeased over social media and making their criticisms well knows to the chairman. Embarrassing defeats to Bury, MK, Oldham and Southend have effectively ended any play off hopes and poor performances in most of the matches since Christmas overshadowing a marquee cup tie away at Chelsea.
The season has obviously been a disappointment, due to an expected play off push for the team. Fans have been highly critical, probably more than ever before, but it’s not all doom and gloom at the club. Many of the highly critical fans have claimed the team has been the worst ever and some of the players aren’t even League Two standard. I feel that the dreadful season in 2005/06 featured the worst standard of players, management, coaching and performances in my lifetime, and probably for a while. The main bulk of fans need to remember this before making claims of this current crop being poorer than ever, as I’m sure that they’d rather have a club where we are now than the mediocrity of League Two where the club came from and has been for a large portion of our time in the Football League.